Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Tim Westwood: The Evolution of a Legend

Tim Westwood
Tim Westwood Tim Westwood

Billed as bringing the ‘Golden Age’ to the proceedings of the hotly anticipated ‘The Doctor’s Order’ 5th Birthday bash, Tim Westwood has been at the forefront of championing hip hop in the UK, by his own admission, ‘literally from day one of this hip hop game’. As he prepares to eagerly rediscover those seminal '80s and '90s joints, we reminisce and wax lyrical about all things old skool, not forgetting of course his days as a columnist for Blues & Soul.

It is a time that he reflects on with great fondness and recalls, “looking back at it, on a personal level, I look back at those early years affectionately and romantically.

“In those early days it was a very small scene. It was a very local scene, where you seemed to know everybody. It seemed to revolve around Saturday lunch time at Spats, then a lot of people would go up to Covent Garden. Graffiti artists dominated it and everything was talked about as Hip Hop culture, which embraced graffiti art, break dancing and body popping. It was a real kids scene as well, and one with absolutely no money and opportunity”.

Back in those days, Westwood was a locally known DJ who graduated from warming up sets for the likes of David Rodigan to rocking the airwaves on stations such as Kiss, Capital and LWR. Much like Hip Hop, his influence, which is in a league of its own, has not only made him one of the most significant UK DJs the genre has ever seen, but alongside the likes of Robbie Vincent and Norman Jay he was amongst the top three of the B&S list of ‘The 40 Essential DJs of the past 40 Years’ (issue: 1000 & 1001).

What was once ‘playtime’ fast became what he describes as ‘my passion, my love, my life - It is who I am and what I do’. Having watched the evolution of an ‘incredibly creative music’ over the decades, Westwood has ‘always kept it moving’. With numerous awards, compilations and TV shows, he has continued to connect with his youth fan base and give young and emerging talent a platform.

This is alongside guaranteed exposure, in the form of his BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra shows, Tim Westwood TV (on Flava TV) and his Youtube channel which is amongst the UK’s top 10 ‘of the most watched music video channels of all time’ ensuring he remains locked in. As he explains, “I still DJ to an 18, 19, 20 year old audience and have connected with that generation over and over again, (that new generation of young people)”. Making him hugely popular in the party islands such as Malia, Faliraki, Kos, Kavos and Zante where he has jumped from island to island in a non stop summer tour before heading back to the UK.

It is not often that a DJ makes the pages of academic theory, yet when I embarked on producing my own extensive study of Hip Hop culture and black British masculinity; Westwood was cited as being critical to popularising in the UK, what was then an emerging sub-cultural scene. It would appear that he was the obvious choice to receive the call from The Doctor’s Orders to bring that essential old skool flava to what is anticipated to be the celebration of the year.

His excitement, is however, also tinged with a slight reservation, “They called up and asked me if I could do the gig and the main concern was whether I could really hold my own doing a '90s old skool set – I don’t play those kinds of records any more.

“I collect records, but my collection is more like a hording of records rather than a collecting of records – my shit is not in any form of order. Once a record is on the shelf, it may have well been thrown away. So I am looking forward to rediscovering and bringing them back”.

With a schedule that would probably leave men half his age with nervous exhaustion, what is the secret to how he remains at the top of his game? For Westwood, who is giving nothing away, it is not so much a magic formula, rather that he feels, ‘really blessed to be able to do it man’. Adding, “I always wanted to be busy when I wasn’t busy, so when I finally was busy, I can’t complain about that.

“I think that people underestimate the power of radio, and having being blessed to be on the radio, every single week. There are also new opportunities through new media, which has been very important to us”.

New media, particularly in terms of the music industry, has not only changed the game but is one which Westwood feels really suits genres such as hip hop, enabling a direct relationship with the audience, ‘which is so important’. “Record companies really get in the way of artists. If you look at artists such as Skepta, whom I think is truly a great artist, he can make a record and get it out to his audience through download links via Myspace, Facebook - whatever. He can make his own Youtube video and get that up. It is harder to make money, but it’s getting creative for sure”.

So what is the future for Hip Hop and Westwood, and whom would he tip as the one to watch right now? “One of my favourite artists right now is Waka floca flame. ‘O lets Do it’ is a classic and his latest joint, ‘Hard in the paint’ is my favourite record right there. I am really strongly supporting him, and then obviously the likes of Drake, who are reinventing hip hop, so yeah I love those guys “.

Tim Westwood may have been around since that determining ‘Golden Age’, but without a doubt he continues to be on the frontline and is ever evolving alongside his perfect 10 – Hip Hop.

Westwood is headlining at The Doctor’s Orders 5th Birthday Party,
10pm – 5am, 23 July 2010 at Fabric, Charterhouse Street, London EC1.

Advance tickets are £15.00 (click to buy below)

Catch Westwood on: BBC Radio 1Xtra Monday - Friday 4-7pm and BBC Radio 1 Saturday 9-11pm, also on Tim Westwood TV on Flava TV Monday – Friday (Sky 367 & Free Sat 502) and

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